Book 65 is “Scourge of the Little C” by J. E. Grinstead. This pulp reprint to 1920s soft-cover paperback “cheap edition” is a well-written novella hailing originally from the August 1925 issue of The Frontier magazine. The artwork is from the 10 August 1925 issue of Short Stories.
“Dimp” Gier rides into town in time to be the partial witness to a gunning. Unconcerned with the rowdy surroundings, he deposits his horse at the stable and takes a room for the night. The hotelier and stableman are afraid for their lives once they realize the man is with the secret “C” society, which has been lynching and killing, locally.
The reader is confused by all this talk, and Grinstead does well to keep us adequately in the dark until he feels like dispensing with further information. Eventually we learn that the rider, “Dimp,” so named for the dimples he sports, thus created when a bullet ripped through his face, while short of stature but strong as an ox, is one of the secret original founding heads to the “C” group, an association bent to exacting justice and cleaning up the county and surrounding areas from rustlers and killers and other assorted malcontents that are ruining their homesteads.
The next day, he leaves the hotel and rides out to the J Bar B ranch, run by old man John Barton, whom has a deaf wife whom can read lips fairly well, and of course, the traditionally necessary lovely heroine daughter, whom handles the ranch books and funds, etc.
Dimp lets Barton in on who he is but demands that nobody else be informed. Despite that, it isn’t long before the crew figure out he is “somebody” since Barton refers to him as “Mr. Gier.” Dimp insists on bunking with the fellows and that Barton desist from the “Mr.” as it gives away everything (yeah, no shit, right?)
There are many harrowing battles throughout the book, many killings, lots of vicious episodes, and throughout, Dimp maintains his distance from Barton’s daughter, despite the fact that she has finally come around to liking him and can’t fathom why he refuses to mingle with her. Man of little words but loads of action, Dimp is set on focusing on the task at hand rather than mix it up with a girl.
Things come a head one day when the neighbors are all rounded up to attend a party, and Dimp ends up dancing with the daughter (Edna). But when another man (Keechi) arrives on the scene, Keechi, looking in from a window, is infuriated to spot Dimp dancing with “his girl.” This man is part of the local criminal element and a large gun battle ensues.
Many are injured, and the leader of the gang and Keechi effect their escape.
While riding back to their ranch, Barton, Edna, and Dimp are astounded to behold before them the very dark handsome tall leader of the criminals, one Dan Pemberton, astride a fine horse, before them. He draws on Pimp, realizing he is the brains behind the resistance but Dimp takes him alive. While traversing a ferry, the four are under heavy fire from the banks and a stray bullet meant for Dimp’s skull takes the taller Pemberton full in the face. He pitches over the rail and dies in the waters.
Dimp is enraged to learn that a heavy barrage of fire had been directed at Edna, and knows that Keechi, realizing that she is no longer “his girl,” has decided to slay her.
A final battle ensues when Tinshkila (a local ranking Indian) sends a fellow man to bring Barton a note to come to their aid, as the rustlers have now heavily infiltrated their territory.
Barton, Dimp, and crew mount (and leave Edna and mom home alone with four to protect them, just in case) and ride off to assassinate the entire bloody lot of villains. This they handily do, but some escape, among them, Keechi. Dimp rides like hell back to the ranch in time to save the woman he loves and they fall into each other’s arms and Dimp idly wonders, as papa Barton strides in, just what he thinks about his daughter in Dimp’s arms.
Apparently he isn’t worried….
This is a fine novel, and I strongly advise anyone with the opportunity and interest in Westerns with sound plots, to read it. You won’t be disappointed. I’m somewhat surprised that this novel never made it to the big screen, but it might have been too complex for Hollywood and the audience to devour.